UC Irvine Case Invites Huge Backlash Against #MeToo Movement

If the #MeToo movement didn’t jump the shark with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, it is surely only a matter of time before even (moderate) feminists see how absurd and destructive this empowerment trend is becoming. The conversation has quickly turned away from serious incidents like assault, rape, and oppressive harassment and towards trivial nonsense like bad dates, clumsy flirting, and old-fashioned chauvinism. That’s not to excuse a workplace environment that makes female employees feel uncomfortable, but when we’re firing people and trashing their legacies for accusations of such flimsy concern, something has gone terribly awry.

Such is the case at UC Irvine, where an 84-year-old geneticist has been forced to resign, had his name stripped from school buildings, and has been banned from the campus. Why? Because Assistant Dean Benedicte Shipley says he sexually harassed her “for years.” But the nature of that harassment is so…tame…that even women who would ordinarily be at the #MeToo forefront are beginning to worry that this movement has run completely off the rails.

From the Los Angeles Times:

During their time together at UC Irvine, Francisco J. Ayala, 84, and Benedicte Shipley, 50, perceived their encounters in dramatically different ways.

He said he believed he was showing her admiration, respect and the courtly manners of his native Spain. She said she felt objectified and humiliated. Her version won out this year, when officials concluded that Ayala had sexually harassed Shipley and two other women.

The university swiftly moved to erase his presence. The world-renowned geneticist resigned, was banned from campus and stripped of prestigious University of California titles. And though he had given Irvine $11.5 million in donations, his name was taken off the university buildings he helped support.

The sanctions have bitterly divided the campus, drawn international attention and underscored the growing complexity of the nation’s pitched battles over sexual harassment.

It’s worth noting that the school talked to ten women who’d had these encounters with Ayala. Only two of them said it “made them feel uncomfortable.” 100 scholars from the school and elsewhere around the world signed their name to a letter accusing UC Irvine of a “massive overreaction.” One of them, political science professor Kristen Monroe, said that while her “natural proclivity is to be sympathetic to women,” the sanctions against Professor Ayala were undoubtedly “excessive.”

“The #MeToo movement has gone too far,” she said.

We’re all for a movement that holds powerful men accountable for sexual misconduct, but when we’re destroying people’s lives because they flirt with their co-workers in a harmless manner, it trivializes real episodes of assault, crosses a moral boundary, and turns innocent men into loathsome monsters. Society cannot function under these kinds of restrictions, and this movement WILL collapse if right-thinking women do not rein it in.

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